Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Northern Exposure

As a final hurrah and so-long-it's-been-good-to-know-ya for the summer, we spent this past weekend in northern New Hampshire at Story Land. We've been meaning to take the girls up there for years, but just never got around to it. It's about a four hour drive from our house, so it requires a bit of planning and an overnight stay, but the park is geared towards smaller kids, so we needed to get on the ball before Maggie begins to age out of it.

There are lots of family resorts and hotels in North Conway that cater to skiers or people who are taking their kids to Story Land or Santa's Village. I combed through so many travel websites looking for just the right thing because we were only planning a very quick, one-night stay after driving up Friday night after school and before hitting the park early Saturday morning. We didn't need a on-site water park or a huge playground and pool, just a comfy place to sleep. It came down to a brand new chain hotel in North Conway or the Eagle Mountain House historic hotel in Jackson, NH, up in the woods a few miles north of the park. We went for the historic hotel, and it was perfect. Even the girls loved it and were excited to stay in such a special place.

photo from Wikipedia

Check out the two-story porch!

The White Mountains

We had a small sitting room with a fold-out couch.

Oh how I wish we'd had time (and warmer weather) to sit and drink our coffee on the porch!

Instead, Mags got a pumpkin muffin and hot apple cider at Dunkies. She loves the cooler weather and wanted to stay in the mountains forever!

After our quick stop for breakfast, we stood in the long line of people waiting to get into Story Land -- keep in mind that this was 9:30 in the morning on a September Saturday after the start of the school year AND we were expecting a rainy, overcast day with a high of 60F. I can't imagine what the place is like in the middle of August!

However, despite the crowds and the clouds and the drizzle, the girls had a fabulous time. Maggie is completely fearless and will ride anything with her hands in the air. And Kate could barely stand to walk normally -- she skipped and galloped all over the park.

Yes, this ride was flying wooden shoes.

This was a big room with a second-floor catwalk where you could shoot foam balls out of pneumatic guns and cannons. It was wild!

Face paint! Pink and purple cat faces, of course. Mike said it was like spending the day with KISS.

Pretending to fall off the wall (or maybe push Humpty Dumpty off?)

This was the coolest carousel ever! It's an antique from Germany, and the horses are on rockers instead of poles. It's the weirdest feeling - when you rock back, it feels like the carousel is slowing down, and then it's seems to shoot forward when you rock back up. Mike was making fun of me, but I'm glad I went on it!

After the rain started coming down around 4:30, we finally had to run back to the car and leave, but we squeezed in a full (chilly) day. We stopped at Mike's parents' on the way home to spend the night and see the cousins, which wrapped up the weekend perfectly.

Cozy Cousins

I have a ton of photos of all the adventures we went on this summer which I never got around to writing about here -- because I was on adventures! I'm putting together a series of posts about all the things we've been up to, so stay tuned for more photos of my kids in strange places around New England.

(Don't roll your eyes. You know you're excited!)

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The First Day of a New Age

Today was Kate's first day of Kindergarten.

Kate's First Day

Maggie's first day was actually last Wednesday, and let me tell you, it's been a rough week in between - and not because Maggie hasn't loved second grade, because she has. It's been rough because Kate has been a total grouch about not getting to start school, too. She was absolutely chomping at the bit!

Maggie's First Day

Maggie was also extremely excited for school to start again. (Yes, we are successfully raising a couple of nerds over here. We're very proud!) She has one of the best teachers in the school and there are a few good friends in her class, so I think she's going to have a fantastic year. And even though they had homework on the very first day of school, she seems to be loving everything so far.

Pink and purple animal print backpack! Kate's is rainbow animal print. They're a couple of Wild Things.

In addition to Maggie's first day, last week also included a student orientation for Kate, a separate Kindergarten orientation (which involved spending just an hour in her classroom getting to know everyone), and an assessment "test" with her teacher. So honestly, it wasn't just a wasted week of sitting around pining for cafeteria lunch. Plus, she's already just about the Queen of the Campus because she's spent the last two years hanging around dropping off/picking up Maggie and playing after school on the playground. She knows half the kids, where the bathrooms are, how to get to the gym, she has Maggie's Kindergarten teacher so she's comfortable with that classroom already, and she's buddies with the principal. She's Kate! Everyone already loves her. She was ready - why were we all holding her back?!

Let's Go Already!

This is what they always look like in the car on the way to school - Minecraft crazy!

When I went to pick her up this afternoon, she was super jazzed. Everything was mega fun! She saw Maggie once in the hall and on the playground! She ate two lunches! (She had a lunch box, out of which she ate her cookies and some crackers before noticing that the cafeteria was serving pizza, so she got in line and got a hot lunch and a chocolate milk!! Maggie thought this was HILARIOUS.) They played a game with a "talking drum" in music class! They played a clapping game with all the kids' names in her regular class! Over dinner, she told Mike, "It was WONDERFUL!"

Kindergarten Queen

I also am feeling pretty good. I haven't shed any tears or moped around today. I generally feel thrilled to see the girls grow and progress and become new versions of themselves rather than feel mournful at the loss of their baby-selves. However, I have had a few moments of panic over the last few weeks about how an era of our lives is truly at an end. I've been a mother, professionally, for the last 7 1/2 years, and as of today, I'm not really that anymore. I have no babies, no toddlers, no teeny-tinies. Just two giant school girls over here... and their mom, who is a... housewife? Uh, hmm. I have much to do in the next year and I'm excited to see where life will take me, but it's always a little nerve wracking not to have a clear idea of where I'm headed. Exciting. Terrifying. Thrilling. Anxious. Hopeful. Even though our paths are diverging, my girls and I are still headed off on some big adventures. Wish us luck!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


Shovels and Rope are coming out with their new album, Swimmin' Time, on August 26th. We already have our copy pre-ordered, so you're slackin'! Be sure to go over to NPR and listen to the album for free so that at least you know what you're missing.

Cary Ann Hearst! *swoon* I love her.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Katie Sez...

... Folks, we haven't seen anything like this in a very, VERY long time - since the '90s!
(while doing a fake news broadcast with Maggie)

... I do not like that dad buzzard! He's mean to those coyotes, and he won't let his son play the banjo! Everyone likes the banjo! I wish I had a banjo!
(said extremely indignantly, while reading Hank the Cow Dog: It's a Dog's Life at bedtime the other night)

... Great joke! Nailed it! Psyche!
(after telling me I had something in my hair when I didn't, making me get up to go look in the mirror; then she made me give her a high five)

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Niagara Falls

As I said yesterday, we stopped by Niagara Falls on our way home from our Indianapolis trip. This was the first time we had a real chance to visit the Falls, even though we've driven through Buffalo a number of times. I expected a kitschy tourist trap, which it is, but the Falls themselves are well worth the trip.

We noticed a white plume of smoke rising in the distance as early as south Buffalo. There are a lot of factories and power plants in the area so I figured it was just a big industrial site, but as we drove across Grand Island and into Niagara, we realized that it was actually the Falls themselves! It's an amazing amount of water.

We arrived after dinner and in a freak rain storm. Luckily, our hotel was across the street from the park where the Falls are located, so we were able to slosh out between showers and see the American Falls lit up with colored lights. We could also watch the nightly fireworks display from our hotel window.

The next morning we got up and headed over to do the Maid of the Mist boat tour that takes you right into the spray at the foot of the waterfalls. Kate HATED the blue ponchos they gave us. She thought it made her look ridiculous and pouted the entire time!

Here is a montage of photos of Kate looking bummed...

At the foot of the much larger Horseshoe Falls, the spray is so heavy it's like being heavily rained on. They sold rubber sandals to people whose shoes had been waterlogged. Pro Tip: wear flip flops!


American Falls

Horseshoe Falls
(The red boat is CANADJUNS! Plotting our overthrow, obviously.)

After the boat ride, we had the option to walk up this wooden walkway to view the American Falls up close from the side. Kate refused to walk up, so we recycled our despicable blue ponchos and headed back up the elevator to the top viewing platform.

Maggie Jane, Fearless Adventurer, was thrilled to walk up, so she and Mike forged bravely ahead alone. She loved every minute of it.

After lunch we walked over the pedestrian bridge to Goats Island in the middle of the Niagara River to see the rapids and the Falls from the top.


Horseshoe Falls from above
I had slight anxiety watching my babies hang over this rail watching all that water rush over the edge!

On the way back there was a nice little field of clover to run in. We promised Kate an ice cream and she really perked up.

Adventure Buddies

It was a great trip. We had a wonderful time, loved seeing everyone, had no flat tires, and no one strangled anyone else (let's not talk about that ear infection/pink eye combo). We didn't even have to stop on the side of a mountain in West Virginia to make a tantruming child do a time out this year! We're making a list of all the other amazing places in America we want to take the girls to see next. They'll love it.


Friday, July 25, 2014

Road Trippers, Vol. 4

This summer, as we have done every other summer since Maggie was six months old, we loaded up The Little Corolla That Could and drove halfway across America to visit family and friends. Mike and I both love road trips, and now we also love that the girls are getting to be quite the little backseat travelling companions. They hung in there beautifully - even across Ohio! - and they seemed to really enjoy the trip, despite the fact that Kate ended up with a scratch on one eyeball, a slight case of pink eye in the other eye, and an ear infection! Good times.

Our first stop is always an overnight stay in Pittsburgh with my college BFF, Val. Her kids are about the same ages as mine, so they were all immediate, fast friends. I was impressed with how well they got along, even though they were tiny the last time they saw one another and probably don't really remember. My girls are missing Noah and Annalise already.

The main portion of these trips is always spent in Indianapolis at the home of my aunt and uncle, who are the most gracious of hosts. Indy is midway between home and home, so my parents can also drive out and meet us in the middle. They usually bring my grandmother with them, but she was unfortunately not up to the trip this year. We missed you, Grandma the Great!

Kate specifically requested to, "swim and swim and swim," which we did and did and did.

This tiny butterfly landed on Mike's shoulder...

...and then it jumped over to Maggie!

It didn't take the girls long at all to get very daring in the water.

The past couple of trips, we've gone to the Children's Museum of Indianapolis, the largest children's museum in the world, but this year we decided to visit the zoo instead. Indy has a great zoo! We've been going to both since I was a little kid.

The new orangutan exhibit

Peeking at zebras

Although Kate was strangely-for-her not into it, Maggie was super excited to Race a Cheetah! She ran fast, but a cheetah is faster (the little red lights on the line above light up at the point where a cheetah would've passed you, based on their average land speed).

Kate rode the seahorse on the carousel...

...and Maggie rode the seal. Picking out the animal they liked best was apparently more important than sitting together!

Stealing Dad's Hat

The sharks were too smart to swim close enough for Maggie to grab them.

On the way home, we stopped in Niagara Falls, NY, which we have never done on all our other travels because we either had a moving truck full of all our worldly possessions or a tiny baby child. Stop back by tomorrow and I'll try my hardest to have our photos of our day at the Falls posted. We had the most perfect weather and Mike got some beautiful shots!

"We really love staying in hotels." - Maggie